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You’ve spent the past few months opening the manuscript on your PC, constructing phrases, reading, gathering information, and strategizing the perfect metaphor for your poem, story, literary fiction, or essay. You’ve finally revised your story for the umpteenth time, and you believe it’s ready for publication in literary magazines after receiving feedback from your trusted peer assessment group. You submit. You are hopeful. Every morning, you check your email for an acceptance letter from the literary magazine. You are anxious and hopeful at the same time. A few weeks later, the email lands in your inbox. It’s a rejection.

Rejections are a daily occurrence. Every writer or creative has had a fair share of rejection from literary magazines and journals. Many writers are devastated when they receive a rejection letter. Some writers have evolved into thick skins that resist the sadness that accompanies rejection letters, while a few others easily slip into the waiting arms of depression.

Here are some tips for submitting to literary magazines and reducing rejections. These tips will help boost your odds. This post emphasizes the significance of following submission guidelines, writing cover letters, withdrawing from submissions, and submitting queries. 

Submission Procedures and Guidelines

Each magazine has its own set of submission rules, and adjusting the content and structure of submissions may be a time-consuming procedure. Some literary publications, however, may automatically reject entries that do not adhere to the requirements. Following them, on the other hand, will demonstrate your commitment to contributing to a journal. All editors value adherence to the standards posted on their submission portals.

under the sheets

Some DOs to remember:

  • Determine the sort and quantity of work accepted by a publication. Don’t send in poems if they only accept fiction. Don’t submit five poems when they only accept three. These contributions are unlikely to be read.
  • Examine the formatting of your written submissions. If a journal requests attachments in a single Word or PDF document, don’t send in five separate Word documents with poetry. If a magazine reads the document blindly and does not want identifying information (e.g. name, email, phone number, etc.) in the document, delete it.
  • Keep in mind the subject of the email/submission. The subject line of an email (or, in Submittable, the title) is perhaps the first thing an editor sees. If a magazine says “NAME – GENRE” and you use the word “submission” in the subject line, editors may sigh. If a magazine does not give a subject line, use “[GENRE] Submission.”
  • If a cover letter or biographical information is requested, please do not submit these.

Some DON’Ts to not forget to remember:

  • Editors should not be mislabeled or misgendered. Simply do not. Greetings can be as simple as “Dear Editors,” or if the editor is specified (for example, “Kindly direct submissions to our Poetry Editor, [NAME]”), address them as such. 
  • Do not CC multiple journals in a single email submission. That’s a sign of irresponsibility and laziness. Yes, laziness. Learn to send your entries individually.
  • Submitting articles to magazines that don’t accept them is a bad idea. 
  • As a general rule, avoid sending racist, homophobic, abusive, or NSFW work.

Biographies and Cover Letters

Cover letters do not determine whether an application is accepted or rejected, but they can either make or ruin an editor’s day. If you are submitting by post, the letter should be on its own sheet of paper, separate from the manuscript, and should be laid out like a proper letter. If you’re sending by email, put the cover letter in the body of the email.

Here’s an example of a cover letter. You may use it. 

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I hope everything is going well for you. I’m Amaka Adamu Adeleke, a young Nigerian writer. I’d like to submit three poems titled “Wa,” “Zo” and “Bia.” The beauty of unity in diversity inspired these poems. I’ve been reading Poemify Magazine for a while and have a lot of admiration for your recent issue. Iwu Jeff’s short story “Verdict of the gods,” in particular, struck a chord with me. Hopefully, my poetry may strike a chord with you as well, but regardless of your decision, I appreciate your time and consideration.

Here below is my third-person biography.
Amaka Adamu Adeleke is a Nigerian writer. Her work has appeared in Praxis Magazine and been nominated for Best of the Net. You may follow her on Twitter @amakadisappointme.

Please keep in mind that this is a simultaneous submission. If I get accepted somewhere, I will tell you right away. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of your day.

Amaka Adamu Adeleke

A word about third-person biographies:

Biographies may be a difficult component for writers who are new to the publishing world. The more traditional approach to drafting a biography would be to highlight your home country/city, prior publications, honours, website, and social media platforms. However, if you decide not to reveal any or all of the above, be unique and unusual!

Click here to get a free copy of Jaachi Anyatonwu’s How To Write A Poetry Cover Letter” on Poemify Bookstore.

Questions and Withdrawals

Most literary journals and magazines welcome simultaneous submissions, meaning you may send the same work to different publications at the same time. So, if your writing is accepted somewhere else (congrats! ), you must tell the other journals and magazines that it is no longer accessible. Some magazines will require you to reply to your initial submission email.

If a literary journal and magazine accept previously published material, notify them of your other acceptances. You do not need to withdraw your work. If you do, you will lose exclusive rights to your work if reprinted.

Your withdrawal emails can be brief and to the point:

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I’m writing to inform you that my poem “Wa” has been published elsewhere and that I’d like to withdraw it. My two remaining poems, “Zo” and “Bia,” remain unpublished. Thanks for your interest in them.

Amaka Adamu Adeleke.

You can also inquire about the status of your submission if the magazine’s response period has passed. If the estimated response time has not elapsed, do not inquire about the status of your submission.

For steps on how to submit to literary magazines and journals, click here.

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Jaachị Anyatọnwụ is a poet, editor and publisher from Nigeria. His writings are inspired by everyday happenings and observations.

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